First session - so far, pretty good! (some bumps)


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback


I ran the first part of Lost Star last night, and was generally pretty happy with the experience.

Players:

I've been playing various PF/D&D-family games for close to 30 years, mostly in the GM seat. My crew last night was fairly diverse in experience: one has played in multiple PF1 campaigns, but is a pretty casual/social player -- just wants to sit down at the table and roll dice; no homework, has never read any more of the rules than necessary for their characters. Another is currently playing D&D5e with past 3.5 experience; the third played lots of AD&D2e and a few sessions of 3 and 4. The 4th was an absolute newbie to tabletop RPGs, but assured, "I know the general tropes, I am a nerd."

Prep:

I took a skim of the rulebook to get a feel for things, then read the first part of the adventure and made a couple of characters to get a handle on character creation, reading rules more deeply as-needed. Overall, I like some of the paradigm changes made, like standardizing the format of class abilities into "feats" with a common presentation, making domain / bloodline powers a special spell type, etc -- but it requires a lot of flipping around the book; I'm glad I sprang for dead-tree!

Nobody else prepped anything (one downloaded the rulebook ahead of time).

Character gen:

I made a couple characters ahead of time to get the hang of it, then started the session by walking the table through making the remaining characters needed as a group, as a way to give everyone some familiarity with the character sheet, math, and book layout. This seemed to work well?

The characters I made ahead of time took about 1.5 hours each, because I was reading rules as I went; at the table, we were able to do it in 45 minutes. The roster:

* Half-elf ranger (two-weapon / double slice)
* Gnome sorcerer (aberrant)
* Dwarf cleric (Torag / shield tank)
* Goblin rogue

Play!

We RPed the quest-giving part a bit before going in and made it through the first 5 rooms of Lost Star in about 2.5 hours total play time.

[spoilers=lost star spoiler]
The sorceror waltzed carefree across the entry and was attacked by the ooze! Fortunately, the cleric tank was close behind, rolled amazing on initiative, and drew the ooze's attention; good party rolls and bad ooze rolls meant they cruised through.

The old-school player with the goblin rogue made good use of stealth and darkvision to scope out the troupe of goblins in the main room, then approached them with his "captive" gnome, telling the goblins that he was a new recruit, this gnome was his lunch, but there were more for everybody back towards the entrance (where cleric and ranger lay in wait in the tunnel).

The goblins took the bait, but I called for initiative as they approached the trap, using Deception for the rogue and gnome, Stealth for the would-be ambushers, and Perception for the gobs. Cleric and Ranger totally flubbed Stealth checks, so the goblins weren't immediately massacred, and had a good running battle among the columns.

The rogue sneak attack sapped one of the gobs to interrogate later, and got enough good intel to avoid the fungus hazard -- but also enough fear-driven hyperbole that they're even more confused about Drakus than before. (Their tongue-in-cheek theory is that he's actually a *giant* vampire, so big that only one fang will fit in any given goblin, so he has to eat two at once.)

They investigated the centipede room for completeness, touching off a fight notable for some of the vermin using their climb speed to go up and over the dwarf who was trying to tank the doorway, dropping into the rest of the party behind her.
[/spoiler]

We ended the session there. Three characters were down to half hit points after three battles; cleric used a channel to heal some of that, but otherwise no expendable resources used beyond arrows. (The cleric mostly hit stuff with her hammer, to great effect, and the sorcerer made heavy use of cantrips.)

Scattered Thoughts

Character gen is definitely easier once you've done it three or four times!

Players found the options they had flavorful enough to quickly inspire personality, both in the pre-gens I provided and in the ones made at the table. While I do feel that 1 initial ancestry feat may be too few, being forced to pick just one gave the goblin rogue's character something to immediately build it (it was "eat anything").

However, the number of different sets of options they had to make choices about was a little confusing -- again, the rogue being the main example due to having so many skills, and both a skill feat and a rogue feat at first level as well as three fixed class features that are...not class feats despite seeming like they could easily be?

The character sheet seems very full / crowded despite lacking defined spaces for some important things (lowlight / darkviz, e.g.) -- but I like that all the math is made very visible by the layout.

3 Action Economy seemed easier to grasp the less experience people had with past games! The total newbie had no problems getting it, while the 3.5/5e player kept trying to take free 5-foot steps (to avoid non-existent AoOs) and treating 2-action spells as single actions (b/c they're 1 standard action in 3.5, and 1 action in 5e).

That said, once the experienced PF1 player realized her cleric could do things like Stride / Strike / Stride in one turn, she was rolling out tactical movement that she never has in past PF1 games.

That combat in the large room especially was more mobile than our combats typically are, with the adversaries also able to move around more nimbly without near-guaranteed death-by-AoOs. The exception was the sorceror, since he was trying to maintain concentration on dancing lights while slinging attack cantrips -- he was stuck in place while the dwarven tank pinballed around the room.

Damage output seems potentially very fast, with second attacks often effective enough to be worth it and critical hits coming with some frequency. If my dice had been hotter, I could see the PCs getting in trouble *fast*; it'll be interesting to see how a boss fight plays out.

It hasn't come up much yet, but I expect resource depletion paralysis to come up as an issue -- with the sorc having three daily pools (spells, power, resonance), and the cleric four (same + channel), each with a smallish number of points in it, the temptation to hoard may strike hard.

Shields are an interesting wrinkle in a few ways. The cleric only used hers when surrounded by enemies, as part of Strike/Strike/Shield, because mobility was otherwise too compelling -- while the sorcerer's dancing lights concentration meant he only used Shield when he was moving -- Concentrate/Stride/Shield -- and couldn't cast two-action spells. I appreciate that this active-shield mechanic adds / forces these tactical choices, though I'm not sold yet on it necessarily improving fun. (Also, Shield Block was an action neither sorc or cleric used, once they realized it could cost them their shield even for a while -- this may end up an "only to avoid death" tactic for those players.)

The organization of the rulebook is...not great? At least in terms of at the table reference, I was again super glad I'd gone for the paper book, and my compliments to whomever created the index: maybe best I've used in an rpg book, and I used it...a lot.

I frequently had to handwave, "let's call that a -2" or "let's assume that's 1 action" on the spot, then look up the right rule when I had a minute, to keep momentum going -- but my PF1 reflexes were nearly always right when I made these calls.

Obviously 4 characters in 5 encounters only gave me a small taste of the system -- we didn't get into resonance, leveling up, multiclassing, dying/healing/resting, or even using most of the spells characters had prepared. But we had a good time, and everybody seemed enthused to keep going, so hopefully I'll have more to say on those soon!

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